One hundred powerful photographs by wartime photojournalist George Rodger are to appear at a major exhibition of his work launching at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester.
The Contact: George Rodger’s War Photographs exhibition, designed by Manchester-based consultancy Hemisphere, tells the story of how the challenges and changing nature of photojournalism in wartime shaped Rodger’s work and experience. It also celebrates the centenary of his birth in Hale, Cheshire.
Housed in the Daniel Libeskind-designed museum, the exhibition space is 500m2, while the ceiling plummets in one corner and swoops upwards in another, creating a challenge in the design plans for Hemisphere.
The exhibition runs chronologically from World War II to post-war Africa. Fit features the 100 photographs, displayed as prints, lightboxes, projections and banners, supplemented by documentary films, interviews, wartime publications and personal objects.
Visitors can try their skills as a picture editor by creating a photo story from Rodger’s contact sheets taken during the Blitz in 1940, as well as watch filmed interviews with veterans from the north of England whose experiences are reflected in the images shown.
On display will be Rodger’s tin hat, featuring engravings of each battle zone he entered, as well as his Leica Illa camera and his Kodak vest pocket camera.
‘The room shape created quite a challenge’, says Steven Wainwright, designer at Hemisphere, which was appointed to the work from the museum’s three-strong roster of consultancies. ‘There is hardly a flat surface in the building. We have constructed a temporary structure that runs through the centre of the building, which creates a more discreet area. We have tried to change the colour as you go in. The exhibition gets darker in content as you walk around, so it changes from light grey to dark grey. It is not a straight photography exhibition. We have tried to tell the story of that time and how Rodger’s work affected people. It is quite minimal, but there is a lot of information without being crowded.’
Hemisphere was also taken on board to design the marketing materials, including posters and advertising.
The exhibition is presented in a building that itself is a symbol of the effects of war. Imperial War Museum North aims to incorporate its message in the building design – a fragmented globe reassembled in three interlocking shards representing conflict on land, in the air and on water.
• George Rodger was a photographer and photojournalist who worked for Life Magazine during World War II
• Starting in wartime London, his photographs record his personal journey and experiences, including Belsen concentration camp
• Contact runs from 9 February until 27 April at the Imperial War Museum North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Trafford Park, Manchester M17 1TZ